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Cutting red tape for research funding - 30/04/2010

Scientist examining test tubes  © EU

New application rules and accounting procedures for EU research funding.

Many researchers find the procedures for securing EU funding for their projects are inconsistent and unnecessarily complicated. They also complain about short deadlines for responding to calls for research proposals and about delays in receiving money at various stages of projects.

Now the commission is proposing new rules aimed at making it easier to apply for and manage grants, admitting that participation in EU-funded projects has become complex.

The plan revolves around introducing new computer systems, streamlining administrative procedures, ensuring the rules are applied consistently and publishing calls for proposals in good time. An expert panel would monitor the new rules to see if they improve the situation.

More radical changes are outlined under a separate proposal to revise the way the EU allocates all funds, not just for research. If accepted, it would mean projects no longer having to itemize all expenditures. Accounting methods would also be brought into line with those used in EU countries for research funding.

In its new 10-year economic strategy, the EU stresses the importance of research to the recovery from the recession and long-term growth. One of its goals is to increase spending on research to 3% of the EU’s GDP so as to attract top researchers and innovative companies.

For its part, the EU has earmarked €50.5bn for research over the 2007-13 funding period. This does not include nuclear research, covered by separate budget of €2.7bn over 2007-11.

But the complicated rules are turning off many researchers, especially those working on behalf of small businesses – one of the main targets of the proposed changes.

Research commissioner Máire Geoghegan-Quinn is preparing recommendations on how Europe can reach the 3% target, to be presented at an EU summit in autumn. They will address “grand challenges” facing society, like climate change, food security and the ageing population.

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